Jurists' Song

Tchaikovsky Research

The Jurists' Song (Правоведческая песнь) is a choral work (TH 80 ; ČW 430) written by Tchaikovsky in September 1885 at Maydanovo, in connection with the fiftieth anniversary in 1885 of the founding of the Imperial School of Jurisprudence in Saint Petersburg, where the composer had been a student in the 1850s.


Scored for unaccompanied mixed voices (SATB).

Movements and Duration

There is one movement, without a tempo indication (B-flat major, 46 bars), lasting around 3 minutes in performance.


The words were specially written by Tchaikovsky.


In a letter of 10/22 May, the director of the school, Ivan Alopeus, conveyed to Tchaikovsky the gratitude of Aleksandr Oldenburgsky, the son of the founder of the school, for agreeing to write a cantata for the day of the School's jubilee [1]. Presumably the commission to write the cantata was made during Tchaikovsky's visit to Saint Petersburg, between 4/16 May and 9/21 May 1885.

In his letter of reply, which has not survived, Tchaikovsky said that, in his opinion, he should write not a cantata, but a straightforward chorus. He won this argument, and Ivan Alopeus informed Tchaikovsky that the text of the chorus would be specially written by Aleksey Apukhtin. On 4/16 July, Apukhtin sent Tchaikovsky the text, asking whether it was suitable and if any changes should be required [2]. Preoccupied with the composition of his Manfred symphony and with his duties at the conservatory, Tchaikovsky was then in no hurry to set about the chorus. It was only in September that Tchaikovsky wrote the chorus, but instead of using Apukhtin's verses [3], he wrote the text of the song himself.

On 27 September/9 October, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck: "For the schools jubilee I have written not a cantata, but a simple chorus to be sung at the dinner by the alumni. I also took it upon myself to write the text of this chorus" [4].


The chorus was performed for the first time on 5/17 December 1885 in the Hall of the Nobles' Club in Saint Petersburg, at the occasion of the jurists' jubilee dinner. Tchaikovsky was not present.


The choral parts and full score were printed in lithograph in 1885 by Markov (Saint Petersburg).

Because no copies of the 1885 editions have yet come to light, the edition of the score in volume 63 of the Complete Collected Works (1990), edited by Lyudmila Korabelnikova & Marina Rakhmanova, is a reconstruction of the chorus by V. Mishchenko and Svetlana Kotomina, based on Tchaikovsky's sketches.


Tchaikovsky's manuscript score of the chorus has been lost, but a rough draft has been preserved in the Tchaikovsky State Memorial Musical Museum-Reserve at Klin (a1, No. 54).


See: Discography

Notes and References

  1. See letter from Ivan Alopeus to Tchaikovsky, 10/22 May 1885 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  2. Letter from Aleksey Apukhtin to Tchaikovsky, 4/16 July 1885 — Klin House-Museum Archive.
  3. The reason for this rejection is unclear. It is possible that the composer considered Apukthin's verses to be too melancholy in character. The original verse was "Friends, our feast of light and sadness...", etc. The text substituted by Tchaikovsky was published in the book Пятидесятилетний юбилей Императорского Училища правоведения: 1835-1885, 5 декября [For the Fiftieth Jubilee of the Imperial School of Jurisprudence: 1835-1885, 5 December]. (Saint Petersburg, 1886), p. 47.
  4. Letter 2778 to Nadezhda von Meck, 27 September/9 October 1885.